In California, an organization called Legal Services for Prisoners with Children (LSPC) is doing work similar to the work of Texas Jail Project and Mama Sana and Moms of Color Rising. They recently formed a committee of advocates to launch a new strategy for improving health care for pregnant and post postpartum women in California jails and prisons. Their goals are excellent and practical, and they also emphasize an important objective: a change in perception. They describe it as “Shifting the paradigm around who people think women prisoners are, and figuring out how to get legislative campaigns and other information to a larger public.”
Women and Jails
The international community is now reading about Texas in this new report on shackling in the U.S. Unfortunately. Some of the information is derived from research and observations by Texas Jail Project.
I remember a female warden of a Texas county jail telling me how much more difficult–”moody and emotional” –women were and that she’d rather deal with male inmates any day. She might consider this study by the Center for Gender and Justice that shows a huge percentage–75%–of the women in county jails having mental disorders.
April was 36 years old and 22 weeks along in her pregnancy when she was arrested and taken to the Bosque County Jail, on May 2nd. She died there May 4th. Even though her death has been ruled a suicide, her sister and other family and friendshave questions about how this could happen. As in all similar jail deaths, the Texas Rangers are investigating, but Texas Jail Project has concerns about that investigation. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any information.
The young nurse working at the Montague County jail was recently charged with fraternizing with an inmate and smuggling tobacco to him. She works for a private contractor named Southern Health Partners: it’s a good bet that the pay from the contractor is low and the hours long. She isn’t working in ideal conditions and her patients aren’t always easy to deal with.
Now let’s look at the company: Southern Health Partners was contracted to provide medical care for the people held here. Since January 1, 2012 to last week, I counted 77 lawsuits filed against them, in states across the south. While nurses have to be held accountable, let’s hope that the county and the people of the county also keep a very close watch on how well this medical provider does their job in Montague County.
In the spring of 2012, 22-year-old graduate student Kristina Sadler began asking questions about the nutrition and diet received by pregnant inmates in the Harris County Jail. She came up with questions, interviewed staff there and reported on what the jail considers adequate nutrition for incarcerated women who are pregnant. Researcher/writer Krishnaveni Gundu presents an analysis of what Sadler found in the context of other reports and information about pregnancy while incarcerated. TJP hopes more graduate students will see this and be inspired to begin similar projects at other county jails around Texas.
I panicked one day when the police came knocking on my door. I pretended not to be home, but they knew that I was. I decided that this was it; my life was a mess and I couldn’t trust anyone. So, hoping to die, I turned on my stove, placed an unused aerosol can into the flames and waited for it to explode, thinking that I would explode along with it. It did explode, but instead of killing me, it ignited my cabinets. I ran out of the apartment unharmed, but the entire apartment burned down. I told God that I was sorry and that I would never try anything like that again. Soon the police carried me away by my arms and pushed me into an EMS vehicle. They asked me if I needed medical attention to which I shook my head, “no.” I did not trust these people and I did not want them to touch me in any way.
The U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) – in partnership with the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) – established the National Resource Center on Justice-Involved Women (NRCJIW) to address the unique and complex needs of adult women involved in the criminal justice system. NIC will continue to deliver products and services to the field specific to justice-involved women, and will work closely with BJA and the Resource Center to assure a coordinated approach.
Homeland Security is running detention centers where women of color are often neglected or even abused, according to reports coming in from northern Arizona. It may be connected to an openly racist and hostile law enforcement culture there, but some say Texas immigration facilities are treating pregnant inmates the same way.
This article points to shocking negligence of incarcerated women who find themselves pregnant – and not just in Texas. Rachel Roth precisely describes the many ways jail staff fail to recognize and deal with women’s special needs, especially when they ignore signs of labor which leads “to women giving birth locked in their cells without any assistance.” See the remarkably forthright Texan Lisa Mijares, who stepped up at a prayer vigil in Abilene to describe what she endured giving birth in her cell after begging for help: http://www.texasjailproject.org/2010/10/lisa-gave-birth-alone-in-taylor-county-cell/